When it comes to building and renovation, you have probably come across the acronym LEED more than a few times. Although you may know that it has something to do with being “green,” you may not know its exact purpose.
Standing for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council and oversees the new construction or renovation of environmentally sustainable structures, residential and commercial. From the planning and design phase, to the final touches, LEED sets guidelines and evaluates how effectively a project meets certain “green” standards.
Benefits of LEED
So why would somebody even bother trying to acquire LEED certification? To begin, LEED’s credibility is unquestioned, as it is the leading name in green building accreditation around the world. In essence, to be able to say that you are LEED-certified means instant recognition and respect when it comes to environmentally sustainable building practices.
In turn, the practical effects of having a LEED-certified project are resource and energy efficiency. Indeed, a building that meets LEED specifications will cost much less to operate, saving up to 40 percent on energy and water expenses.
Finally, the energy efficiency that springs from a LEED certification can qualify you for any number of tax deductions and rebates depending on your location. You can find more information on this through your state energy website or the IRS.
Types of Certification
LEED offers five different rating systems, depending on what type of project you are undertaking.
- The Building Design and Construction system applies to new construction projects or major renovations largely in the commercial sector.
- The Interior Design and Construction system applies to interior renovations.
- The Building Operations and Management system applies to improvements on existing buildings with little to no construction.
- The Neighborhood Development system applies to new land development for residential or nonresidential use at any stage of the process.
- The Homes system applies to single-family and multifamily homes up to eight stories.
Certification is credit-based. Projects are evaluated on various credit categories including water efficiency, indoor environmental quality and sustainable sites, among many others. Each rating system has minimum requirements that applicants must meet in certain credit categories in addition to optional ones that they accumulate beyond that. Meeting credit requirements earns you points. For example, installing a tankless water heater might gain you credit points in water efficiency. The number of points that you accumulate at the end determines your level of certification.
There are four levels of certification:
- To earn Certified status, you must accumulate 40-49 points.
- To earn Silver status, you must accumulate 50-59 points.
- To earn Gold status, you must accumulate 60-79 points.
- To earn Platinum status, you must accumulate 80+ points.
Once you determine which rating system matches your particular project, you need to go to LEED’s website to create an account and register. There is a registration fee for nonmembers of $1,200.
The next step is to apply. At this point, you will decide which credits to pursue in your project and state your specific intentions for a team of LEED professionals to review. You will submit a design application and a construction application. As a result, there are two mandatory reviews during the certification process that can earn you credits: the design review and the construction review. Certification fees vary per project, but begin at $2,750.
Note that certification is a long and complex process that will last throughout your entire project. If you are interested in pursuing certification, LEED will provide you with a host of resources once you register. LEED